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pushing each other to the limits, we were learning quicker

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When Bakugō walked to the Midoriya’s household that morning he was not expecting the change of events.

The routine was simple, one they’d stuck with for months now. Katsuki would go to Izuku’s house to pick him up and from there they’d walk together to their kindergarten, taking their time to play with each other and talk in that short distance. Later in the day they would both go back to the Midoriya’s, have dinner, and then the Bakugō’s would come pick up their son. It was a nice plan, easy, forced upon the boys to spend some time together and give their mothers a chance to catch up in that short moment spent between cleaning the dishes and packing their schoolwork.

In hindsight, it was a great idea, but right now Katsuki wished nothing more than to throw that plan out of the goddamn window and pass on to a whole new one, because today’s turn of events had been downright painful.

“I need to tell you something,” Izuku had said halfway through their walk to the park. Their school was just across the street, a few meters ahead, and from where they were standing Bakugō could see the main gates open, inviting. It was still too early for groups of students to come flooding in like they did every day, but there a few like them who started making their way in, hot chocolate cups in hand and heavy backpacks lazily thrown over one shoulder, hanging askew onto their thin frames.

As it was still too fucking early to deal with all of their classmates’ shit, Katsuki decided to humour his friend, so he settled for humming in acknowledgement before turning slightly so he could see the younger’s boy face.

“Shoot, we haven’t got all day,” to punctuate his point he willed a few explosions to come out from his hands, thing that had Midoriya shaking, a few tears escaping from his eyes and carelessly running down his chubby cheeks.

“I’m quirkless,” Izuku finally relented, digging his nails into his palms, and out of all the things Bakugō had been expecting to hear – maybe about the new All Might movie, Inko Midoriya’s wellbeing, a Pro-Hero retiring, new Pros debuting, villains arising – this certainly hadn’t been one of them.

Silence stretches on for what seems like forever, a crushing blanket over both of their bodies. And while Midoriya weeps his eyes out, Bakugō is unable to do anything but watch. He feels his heartbeat ringing in his ears, sees the waterworks that are being released from those emerald eyes he’s come not to hate, sees Izuku’s school bag drop to the floor and get crushed under the sudden realization that his one and only friend is utterly, completely, totally quirkless and fucking useless.

At some point Izuku had crouched near his discarded backpack, but now he was just sitting in front of him, rocking back and forth on the pavement.

“I’m quirkless,” he repeats, just in case the words hadn’t registered the first time he said them, and Katsuki wants to scream, punch something, grab the goddamn loser by the shirt of his collar and state that, yes, he’d heard them the first time — but he can’t. It seems he is only able to quietly stand in front of his friend, slowly blinking his own tears away and trying to keep his anger at bay – just why the fuck is he empathizing with some quirkless kid to the point where he wants to cry as well?

The confession had certainly thrown him out on a loop, the words repeating themselves over and over in his head, but it’s not that big of a deal, he supposes. He doesn’t need to cry for this fucker who will probably just get in his way, and goddamn he won’t. It’s best that he just cut ties with Izuku right now and saves himself further trouble.

But he can’t, because Midoriya is who he is in spite of having a quirk or not. The cheerful boy with a dazzling personality and a brain too big for his head has been there all this time, walking alongside Bakugō to school each and every day and chewing his ear off with mumbling in the process. He’s been there every single afternoon, curled at his side and painting with crayons All Might’s figure on empty sheets of paper. He’s been there at almost every dinner and family night, slowly but surely etching his way onto Katsuki’s life without leaving an opening to crawl out just in case he needed it because he was never really planning to leave, and Bakugō scoffs when he realizes he doesn’t necessarily want to throw the boy out, either.

His best friend has no quirk at all, nothing, and he never will – but that doesn’t make him any less of who he is. Midoriya Izuku has loved heroes and mumbled about them since he learned how to form proper words, Midoriya Izuku has stood alongside Bakugō even before he knew how to stand without tripping over his own feet, but most importantly, Midoriya Izuku has never once wavered in his own volition to help people − with a smile, of all things, seriously, his best friend is just too pure for this world.

His best friend, who has wanted nothing more than to have an amazing quirk since day one. His best friend, who selflessly wanted to help people in any possible way and had been thrilled with the idea of being able to do something more than just stand from the bleachers and let everyone else do the work had been condemned to a life of doing just that.

Life certainly wasn’t fair, Bakugō learnt pretty early on.

But that wasn’t the only thing he’d learnt that day, so he makes a decision in a matter of seconds and resolves to sticking with it even if it kills him, because it would kill Izuku otherwise, and God forbid anyone ever wrongs that sunshine ball of a boy.

“I’m never going to be a hero,” Izuku cries, tears streaming down his little face. “I don’t have a quirk, I’ll never be able to protect other people! Or myself, for that matter. I’m just useless, Kacchan.”

“That’s not true,” the blonde snarls, grimacing. Izuku is worth way more than what he gives himself credit for. He tugs at his friend’s sleeves. “C’mon, get up, c’mere.”

The green haired boy hesitantly agrees, releasing a surprised yelp when a pair of arms wrap around his torso.

“You don’t need a quirk to be a hero, Izuku,” Bakugō mutters, trying his best to be reassuring. “Or to protect others, for that matter, you’re perfectly capable of doing that just by yourself, so cut the drama.”

“Do you really think that?” The sobs have evolved into something quieter now, just a faint hitch in the boy’s breath that will probably fade away within minutes.

“I never say anything I don’t mean, mind you. Now let’s go, we’re already running late for class,” Katsuki says, adjusting the straps of his backpack. Out of the corner of his eye he is able to make Midoriya’s thin frame leaning down to pick up his own.

“Oh, and Izuku?” He says, already walking towards the school gates and not bothering to look back.

“Yes, Kacchan?” Comes the reply, slightly muffled by the wind.

“It’s okay if you can’t protect yourself, I can do that for you,” then and only then he allows himself a small glance back, just to verify the words did get through.

The smile Midoriya thanks him with could brighten up the whole world.

 

Bakugō does well on his promise of looking after Izuku. He’s a man of honour, after all.

It goes like this.

They’re both sitting in the school cafeteria, shoulders brushing and English textbook open in front of them, bentōs long forgotten in the sake of trying to get a grasp on the homework.

“I still have trouble with the past participle form of some verbs,” Katsuki mutters, embarrassed. “Some of them change and some of them don’t, why is that?”

“It depends on whether they are regular or irregular,” Izuku says, pointing at a verb list. “Here, let’s take ‘talk’ for example. You would say its present is talk, its past is talked and its past participle is talked, which is the same as the past – as opposed to ‘speak’, which is speak, spoke, spoken… that’s because−”

The boy’s explanation is cut short by a fellow classmate yanking him back by the collar of his shirt, causing him to fall onto the floor.

“Oi, what’s your problem?” Bakugō asks, rushing to help his friend stand up.

Someone snickers behind them.

“Oh, come on, you can’t possibly be mad at me for picking on the quirkless kid, can ya’? Don’t be like that, Katsuki, we’re just messing around,” a boy says, pastel blue skin glistening. “Ah, man, don’t help him stand up. Look, here’s an offer, why don’t you join us in our fun?”

“Yeah, join us, Katsuki-chan! It’s not like we’ll get in trouble, even if he did try to tell on us, no one would believe a quirkless nobody,” a girl shouts, her pink antlers bouncing with the excited movement of her head.

Izuku whimpers, eyes glued to the floor. Bakugō stands next to him, tiny hands curled into fists.

“Izuku is not a ‘nobody’, mind you,” comes the blonde’s response, anger seeping through each of his words. “He may be quirkless, but that doesn’t give you the right to mess with him. Seriously, what’s your problem?”

Surprised green eyes turn to look at his best friend, who stands unwavering between him and a group of children who must be a couple of years older than them at best.

“Hey, mate, don’t get so riled up, we’re just here to have a good time,” someone in the group says, the slightest hint of joy in his voice.

‘He must be finding the whole deal entertaining, the bastard,’ Izuku thinks bitterly, and then he wonders if anyone else is finding this entertaining too. They’re in the middle of a school cafeteria, after all, surely someone has already noticed.

“Well, yeah, your idea of a good time sucks,” Bakugō snarls, tiny explosions swelling in his fingers. “Now go bother someone else, we’re kinda busy here.”

“Ah, chill, dude,” another girl says, placing a hand on Bakugō´s shoulder reassuringly, apparently not realizing her mistake.

Katsuki has always been an explosive person by nature, but never aggressive. Always threatening to kill people and scaring them off with his explosions without causing any harm – this time, though, Izuku watches him shove the girl back to her group of friends, applying so much pressure he sends her crashing down onto the cafeteria floor.

If they weren’t dragging a lot of attention to themselves before, now they totally are.

“I’m going to say this one more time,” Bakugō snarls. “Even though Izuku is quirkless, that doesn’t give you the right to drag him down for it. He’s got more to offer than all of you combined, extras. Now go and leave us alone, fuckers.”

“That’s mean, Katsuki-chan!” The same girl from before cries, reaching again for the blonde, but the explosions on his hands efficiently deter her from coming any closer.

“You have no right to call me by my name, brat,” Katsuki growls, releasing yet another tiny explosion.

“I think that’s enough, Kacchan,” a warm hand places itself on his shoulder, and Bakugō can feel Izuku’s warmth soaking thrown his uniform. “They surely got the message by now.”

“I hope,” the blonde responds, wiping the sweat off his palms in the school uniform, “or else.”

The group of children scour away like frightened animals.

 

“Thank you,” Izuku would say hours later, laying in his bedroom floor with an All Might colouring book in front of him and a blue crayon on his palm. “For what happened earlier, I really appreciate it, Kacchan.”

“I said I was going to take care of you, didn’t I?” Bakugō answers, idly playing with a red crayon. “Besides, people like them are always going to be after someone if they’re not stopped, I hope that today I managed to scare them off so they won’t bother anyone else for a really long time.”

“You’re going to be a great hero someday, Kacchan,” Izuku mutters, smiling, and Katsuki doesn’t miss the sad undertone in his words.

“Well, every good hero needs a sidekick, right?” The blond asks, measuring his words. “You better start training now, Izuku, ‘cause I don’t plan on being a comprehensive boss.”

Tears start swelling in his friend’s eyes, and the green haired boy nods solemnly once, twice, thrice, before finally standing up and holding his fist in front of Bakugō’s face.

“We’ll be the best superhero duo out there,” he promises, smiling.

“Yeah,” the blonde agrees, fist bumping his best friend before returning to his colouring book.

 

Things like that happen on another two occasions before the pair of friends completely give up on trusting others.

The first time it’s almost by accident, a girl with bright, pink wings and a charming smile comes up to them a few weeks after what the school’s come to refer as “That Quirk Cafeteria Drama”, which is just code for “the time a toddler shoved a first grader” with fancier words and a discreet reference as to why the problem had originated in the first place.

She interrupts them during one of their daily lunch study sessions, but it seems the girl pays it no mind and instead greets them with a warm grin and open wings that make her bubble-gum coloured feathers shine under the sun.

“I’m Ryōmen Utsukushi-sa, may I sit down with you?” Her eyes are a pastel pink, and Izuku duly notes that her white hair shines on his own, making her look like a fairy straight out of some princess book. Upon receiving no answer, she simply shrugs and sets her food tray in front of them, taking a seat like it’s a natural thing to do. “I saw how you punched that annoying girl the other day, Bakugō-kun, and I must admit that it impressed me. I’ve never seen anyone who had the courage to stand up to Nakisakebu-chan like that.”

Katsuki grins, practically gleaming with pride, and he shrugs before taking a bite out of his onigiri.

“Asshole had it coming, who does she think she is? Looking down on Izuku like that, fucking weirdo,” he stabs particularly strong his onigiri as if to punctuate his statement, thing that makes Ryōmen laugh with delight.

“People don’t tend to like quirkless people, figures,” as if realizing something her eyes suddenly shine brightly and she turns to Midoriya, smiling. “I’m also impressed at how smart you are. Just now you were discussing verbs in English, right? That’s amazing, I can barely wrap my head around hiragana and yet there you are, speaking a foreign language like it’s no big deal.”

That makes him flustered, and he trips over his next few words, completely embarrassed that an upper-classmate decided to compliment him on something as silly as studying.

Bakugō, however, seems to take the compliment personally, and he gives Izuku a playful nudge with his shoulder.

“Izuku is smarter than any of us,” he comments proudly, sneaking an arm around his arms and pulling him closer in a way that’s a little uncomfortable because they’re sat in different chairs and the plastic armrests get in the way. “But one day I’ll beat his score, just you wait.”

Izuku can deal with playful banter, so he decides to play along and forgo his previous embarrassment in favour of embarrassing his friend.

“Oh, you wish! No one in class can match my intelligence! Did you see my midterms? Man, I’m way above you all!” Knowing well that Bakugō’s competitive side will arise at that and that he should probably study a little harder for their next test – which aren’t that hard, mind you, Izuku can identify colours and numbers just fine.

“You’re on!” The blonde laughs, promising that he will do better than Izuku in their next test, even though they both know he’ll fall short by only an answer or so.

(Years later Bakugō will have better midterm scores than Izuku, who will pout and feign indignation for a total of three seconds before dropping the act and congratulating Katsuki on his score, as well as the only other two classmates who have managed to outsmart him. Then he will turn towards the last member of the Top Five™ of their class and encourage him to work harder on the next exam, thing that will earn him a blush and an honest smile that will have him swooning for days, but that’s still a long way to come.)

As of right now, Ryōmen only laughs, delighted at their antics, and she takes a slurp of her noodles before pointing at them with her chopsticks.

“You’re quite lovely to be around,” the girl comments as easily as one would talk about the weather. “Mind if I sit with you for the weeks to come?”

“Please do!” Izuku pleads, more than happy to have a new friend join their duo. “You’re welcome here anytime, Ryōmen-sama!”

The pink haired girl laughs, smiling widely, and her the feathers of her wings rustle with the vibrations of her ribcage.

“Oh, please, Midoriya, just Ryōmen is fine!” After taking another slurp of her noodles she decides, “or perhaps Utsukushi-sa, if that doesn’t bother you?”

Bakugō scoffs, which is his way of agreeing to the first name basis, and he hesitatingly looks up at her with wary crimson red eyes.

“Call me Katsuki, then,” he offers, and without a second thought he adds, “the nerd over there’s Izuku.”

Midoriya waves, completely happy with their new friend, and she meets him back with a smile that seems almost surreal from how pretty it is.

“Katsuki and Izuku it is, then,” she decides, and they all go back to finishing their food in between comfortable chit chat and giggles.

Izuku should’ve known it was too good to be true.

 

During the following weeks Utsukushi-sa keeps her promise of joining them for every meal, and they spend lunch time chatting and giggling like the kids they are. She opens up about her quirk, thing that has Izuku spilling questions way faster than any normal human should, and the girl tries to answer them to the best of her ability. They learn that she can’t fly yet, but her bones are hollow so that, when her wings finally grow to their full size, she can be able to. Her hair and eye colour are inherited from her mother, while her father passed down on to her the bird genes. She’s in second grade and has a weird addiction towards sweet things, which Bakugō doesn’t approve but tolerate.

They also open up a little. Izuku rants about quirks and superheroes while she listens, and Bakugō joins the conversation when the topic drifts to All Might and the current heroes. She says her favourite is Endeavour, and that while she could never imagine herself in such a line of work, one day she hopes to see a winged hero in the top places at the charts. They learn she dislikes Ectoplasm but has a secret liking for his quirk, and Izuku supplies as much information as possible about it, because Clones is one hell of a rad quirk to have and he’d die talking about it if he could.

Lunch always ends too soon for his liking, and he’s so engrossed in their newfound chemistry and happiness to really notice when things start to go astray. It apparently takes Bakugō for surprise as well if the betrayed expression in his face is anything to go by.

They’re standing near their classroom door, staring at one of the many posters that decorate the school's wall. It has Izuku’s face on it, and reads “Are the quirkless trying to overcompensate? Why we shouldn’t trust their lack of ability” right on top of a list of things Izuku does, with words like ‘rant’, ‘mumble’, and ‘overshare personal information’ next to ticked boxes.

That day Utsukushi-sa doesn’t sit to have lunch with them, and the only time they see her is passing by the halls at cleaning time, hand in hand with Nakisakebu, the girl Bakugō had shoved all those weeks ago.

And while she doesn’t even look in their direction while happily chatting with her friend, the message is clear: we don’t want quirkless people around us.

Izuku spends a grand total of three days mourning the loss of their friendship before Katsuki forcibly drags him out of his bed and onto the shower.

 

The second time is years later, Bakugō and Izuku are finally six years old and have only recently started i-chi-nen-sei. The years have only dragged them closer, bonding them together by force or by choice, Izuku is not really sure at this point, but nonetheless he’s glad that this has happened.

They’re accepted as part of the other’s family, now, not that they weren’t before, but somehow it’s only become official recently. Izuku had slipped up one day and called Mitsuki ‘mum’ instead of ‘aunt’, thing that hadn’t displeased the woman at all, and soon enough the Bakugō’s became his alternative parents – Katsuki had given onto it rather quickly, it seemed he took a liking to call Inko ‘mother’ and adjusted to it easier than Izuku had, but it was okay.

The first day of school almost flies by unnoticed, if not for the presence of a certain bumblebee boy that managed to shift their whole world on its axis in under three seconds.

“I’m Shinrai Dekinai,” he’d said, black eyes staring into eighty different directions. “Can we be friends?”

Izuku doesn’t know how to answer, what to do. The last time someone with wings and pretty eyes had approached him hadn’t ended well, and he doesn’t know how much he’s willing to risk again.

But he’s only a child, and he forgives easy and forgets even easier, so he nods and points to Bakugō who only scowls.

“He’s my brother, Bakugō Katsuki,” Midoriya says, smiling. “I’m Midoriya Izuku, nice to meet you!”

Katsuki growls, clearly uninterested, and Shinrai blinks slowly.

“You say you’re brothers, but your surnames don’t match,” it seems he’s registering the information, because he tilts his head like a lost puppy and blinks once again, “how’s that?”

“We’re not related by blood,” Izuku elaborates, shrugging, and Shinrai nods like that makes perfect sense.

“Okay then,” a brief pause and, “what’s your quirk?”

At this, Midoriya doesn’t know how to answer, but fortunately Bakugō is way faster than him to answer and he creates an explosion from his hand to show off his power, a smug grin tugging at his lips.

“I blow shit up, now sit down and eat or whatever, Izuku was teaching me about conditionals,” he deadpans, turning back to the English textbook that lies open in the table, and the bee boy turns to look at it with newfound fascination.

“What language is that?” He asks, cocking his head. “I can’t understand it.”

“It’s English, and it uses a different alphabet than Japanese, that’s why you can’t understand it,” Izuku explains, carefully going over the examples in the page to try and understand them and Shinrai hums in agreement, which sounds more like a buzz.

“Ah, I see,” another few seconds filled with even more buzz hums and then, “do you think you could teach me English?”

“Only if you promise to pay attention and keep up, I hate going over things more than two times,” Bakugō snarls, looking fairly amused, and Midoriya nods in approval, watching as their new friend nods rather enthusiast.

Shinrai buzzes with excitement − quite literally, it makes Izuku giggle.

 

But of course all good things must come to an end, and their newfound friendship meets theirs way too soon.

They’re sat around Izuku’s desk, all hunched over the English textbook, bentōs long forgotten in favour of going over and over the list of irregular verbs until they finally have all the conjugations right which is turning out a bit trickier than Shinrai had imagined when it happens.

Another kid from their class with tiger sprawled teeth and piercing teal eyes stomps to their table, determination written itself across his features.

“You!” He says, pointing to Izuku, and the greenette blinks slowly towards the new addition to their group. “What’s your quirk?”

It seems as if all the air has been knocked out of his lungs, and Midoriya is unable to do anything but gasp for air, feeling compromised of being put into such a position.

“Why do you care, shitty Tygra knockoff?” Bakugō snarls, shoving the tiger-like boy out of their corner. “Go back to being social or whatever.”

“No, I’m serious,” Shitty Tygra Knockoff continues, looking extremely decisive to get an answer. “So far everyone’s shown out their quirk, as dumb as it may be. Shinrai over there is a bug, King of Explodo Kills over here has set things ablaze more than once in accident. Man, even I have set off in a running spree after small animals a couple times on accident! So, what’s your quirk, man? And why hasn’t it shown yet?”

He roars to accentuate his question, jamming a clawed finger in Izuku’s general direction, and it seems all this noise has managed to gain them an audience. Almost all of his class stares at him with wide, expectant eyes, anxiously waiting for the green haired boy to make a move.

He’s been cornered up, placed between a rock and a hard place, unable to move, having nowhere to go, so he helplessly searches for Katsuki’s eyes, begging for an opening – and he finds with utter terror that his best friend looks as frightened and as lost as he is.

“I… um,” he swallows, forcing the next words to come out of his mouth. “I, uh, I don’t… have one? A quirk, I mean, I’m quirkless.”

For a few seconds everything’s silence, the atmosphere so heavy one could cut right through it with a knife. Then, slowly, as if developing a photograph, laughter starts seeping in from every corner of the room.

“Seriously, quirkless?” Someone asks, doubling over in between fits of laughter. “Oh my God, that’s hilarious! Smart boy doesn’t even have a quirk, he’s not special, guys!”

“It’s like taken out of a movie!” Someone else chirps in, voice dripping with amusement. “”Local quirkless boy overcompensates lack of originality with brains”, front page of any newspaper!”

That insult opens an old wound, and Midoriya finds himself holding onto dear life for support, standing so fast from his seat that the motion manages to give him whiplash.

“I… that’s not true!” He cries, feeling desperate. “I’m just as capable as any of you!”

“Sure you are, quirky,” Tygra Knockoff laughs, waving him off like it’s nothing – like he’s nothing. He then turns towards Bakugō and Shinrai. “Come on, let’s not waste time around this loser. I’ve got a bunch of friends with cool quirks that are way more interesting than this dull boy right here.”

Quirkless, uninteresting, dull, overachiever, unworthy.

It all comes crashing down onto him.

Shinrai looks mildly concerned, but he then finally sighs and decides to bid Izuku goodbye.

“I don’t like it when people lie to me,” he finally mutters, shrugging. “Hey, Bakugō, you coming?

Liar, Izuku will have to add that one to the list. But for now he turns to look at his best friend with desperate eyes, hoping that Katsuki won’t leave him behind.

Luckily, he doesn’t. Instead Bakugō comes to stand at his side and flips everyone off, adding a few explosions for effect.

“Get lost, fucker,” he snarls, looking directly at Shinrai, and the insect boy blinks before shrugging. He then turns to look at the Tygra Knockoff. “Look at me once more and I’ll fucking rip your throat off, bitch.”

Their classmate shrugs, muttering a quick. “It’s your loss, really,” before insistently tugging on Shinrai’s sleeve to pull him away and towards his group of quirky friends who he assures are way more interesting than Midoriya.

And that’s how Izuku learns that sometimes people don’t have to actively wrong you for them to hurt you, sometimes they just need to step out to successfully crack your armour.

As they watch the retreating figure of Shinrai’s back disappear between the mass of students, Bakugō is once again reminded that life certainly isn’t fair.

But, as he looks to Izuku’s trembling figure on his right, he also remembers that a few years ago he made a promise that he’s hellbound on keeping ‘till the end, even if it kills him –a promise that he unwillingly broke a few seconds ago, at that, so much for being a good friend− so he sneaks an arm around Midoriya’s shoulder and hugs him to his chest like he’s seen his parents do before, placing his arm in the small of Izuku’s back because it seems like that’s a reassuring gesture.

Izuku whimpers, sounding broken and so, so defeated, so Katsuki holds him closer and rocks him back and forth, promising himself over and over that he will die before letting the world crush this wonderful boy.

If after that Bakugō develops a tendency to push people away before they can reject them which transfers into being particularly moody and snappy towards anyone that isn’t Izuku, well, nobody can really blame him. He’s just trying to look after his little brother, after all, and he will die trying if it means Izuku can live a happy life without being looked down because of his quirklessness.

The end justifies the means, anyway. And Bakugō’s endgame is to keep Izuku smiling no matter what, so he pours his all into making sure no one can ever lay hand on him ever again.

 

Some days later someone points out that one of the kanjis in Izuku’s name could also be read as “Deku”, which is a very unelaborate way of insulting someone that can’t achieve anything.

Midoriya cries into his pillow for hours on end, only stopping when Katsuki places a hand on the small of his back like he’s seen his parents do countless times before.

“You know what Deku reminds me of, though?” He says, tracing patterns on the small of his back with the tips of his fingers. “That word, ‘dekiru’, it means ‘to be able to do’.”

Izuku chokes back a sob.

“So, come on, Deku, let’s show this losers just what we’re capable of doing,” Bakugō says, trying to put on his best reassuring smile even though his friend can’t see him.

He gets a nod in response.

The insult doesn’t strike him as badly after that, and within days Deku doesn’t even feel like an insult anymore.